Mount St. Helen was a beautiful mountain in the state of Washington. Despite the fact that it had been an active volcano in the 1840s and 50s, people hiked and camped at its base. But beauty can be deceiving. On March 20, 1980, the volcano began to awaken, releasing steam and ash. Many other small eruptions followed. On Sunday morning, May 18, Mount St. Helens shook violently, one side of the mountain began to slide away, and hot lava spewed forth. The smoke and ash rose 80,000 feet into the air, spreading into eleven states and two provinces in Canada. Fifty-seven people lost their lives, and hundreds of miles around the mountain were obliterated.
The author has taken the historic events of the Mount St. Helens eruptions, and added in the fictional characters of eleven-year-old Jess and her twin friends, who live in a little town at the base of the mountain. The kids enjoy exploring the woods there, and are trying to figure out if the local legend of a crazy person named Skeleton Woman is true. They experience the early warning of the first earthquakes, and bump into a geologist who warns them that the mountain is about to erupt.
I appreciate the author’s focus on picking important historic moments, and telling the story through kids’ eyes, using fictional characters. Books such as the “I Survived” series have the ability to get both kids and adults interested in non-fiction subjects. For example, this book could get a person to read more about weather, geology, and volcanoes.
The story also shows the importance of friendships. When times are rough, a good friend sticks with you, just as Jess did whatever she could to save the lives of her friends.
One more note about this book: it gives some bonus information about the eruption of the mountain at the end of the book. All in all, this is a great book to read, whether you enjoy it by yourself or read it aloud with a friend or the family.